An Allegory

From Miscellaneous Writings by

Picture to yourself “a city set upon a hill,” a celestial city above all clouds, in serene azure and unfathomable glory: having no temple therein, for God is the temple thereof; nor need of the sun, neither of the moon, for God doth lighten it. Then from this sacred summit behold a Stranger wending his way downward, to where a few laborers in a valley at the foot of the mountain are working and watching for his coming.

The descent and ascent are beset with peril, privation, temptation, toil, suffering. Venomous serpents hide among the rocks, beasts of prey prowl in the path, wolves in sheep’s clothing are ready to devour; but the Stranger meets and masters their secret and open attacks with serene confidence.

The Stranger eventually stands in the valley at the foot of the mountain. He saith unto the patient toilers therein: “What do ye here? Would ye ascend the mountain,—climbing its rough cliffs, hushing the hissing serpents, taming the beasts of prey,—and bathe in its streams, rest in its cool grottos, and drink from its living fountains? The way winds and widens in the valley; up the hill it is straight and narrow, and few there be that find it.”

His converse with the watchers and workers in the valley closes, and he makes his way into the streets of a city made with hands.

Pausing at the threshold of a palatial dwelling, he knocks and waits. The door is shut. He hears the sounds of festivity and mirth; youth, manhood, and age gayly tread the gorgeously tapestried parlors, dancinghalls, and banquet-rooms. But a little while, and the music is dull, the wine is unsipped, the footfalls abate, the laughter ceases. Then from the window of this dwelling a face looks out, anxiously surveying him who waiteth at the door.

Within this mortal mansion are adulterers, fornicators, idolaters; drunkenness, witchcraft, variance, envy, emulation, hatred, wrath, murder. Appetites and passions have so dimmed their sight that he alone who looks from that dwelling, through the clearer pane of his own heart tired of sin, can see the Stranger.

Startled beyond measure at beholding him, this mortal inmate withdraws; but growing more and more troubled, he seeks to leave the odious company and the cruel walls, and to find the Stranger. Stealing cautiously away from his comrades, he departs; then turns back,—he is afraid to go on and to meet the Stranger. So he returns to the house, only to find the lights all wasted and the music fled. Finding no happiness within, he rushes again into the lonely streets, seeking peace but finding none. Naked, hungry, athirst, this time he struggles on, and at length reaches the pleasant path of the valley at the foot of the mountain, whence he may hopefully look for the reappearance of the Stranger, and receive his heavenly guidance.

The Stranger enters a massive carved stone mansion, and saith unto the dwellers therein, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” But they understand not his saying.

These are believers of different sects, and of no sect; some, so-called Christian Scientists in sheep’s clothing; and all “drunken without wine.” They have small conceptions of spiritual riches, few cravings for the immortal, but are puffed up with the applause of the world: they have plenty of pelf, and fear not to fall upon the Stranger, seize his pearls, throw them away, and afterwards try to kill him.

Somewhat disheartened, he patiently seeks another dwelling,—only to find its inmates asleep at noontide! Robust forms, with manly brow nodding on cushioned chairs, their feet resting on footstools, or, flat on their backs, lie stretched on the floor, dreaming away the hours. Balancing on one foot, with eyes half open, the porter starts up in blank amazement and looks at the Stranger, calls out, rubs his eyes,—amazed beyond measure that anybody is animated with a purpose, and seen working for it!

They in this house are those that “provoke Him in the wilderness, and grieve Him in the desert.” Away from this charnel-house of the so-called living, the Stranger turns quickly, and wipes off the dust from his feet as a testimony against sensualism in its myriad forms. As he departs, he sees robbers finding ready ingress to that dwelling of sleepers in the midst of murderous hordes, without watchers and the doors unbarred!

Next he enters a place of worship, and saith unto them, “Go ye into all the world; preach the gospel, heal the sick, cast out devils, raise the dead; for the Scripture saith the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made you free from the law of sin and death.” And they cast him out.

Once more he seeks the dwelling-place of mortals and knocks loudly. The door is burst open, and sufferers shriek for help: that house is on fire! The flames caught in the dwelling of luxury, where the blind saw them not, but the flesh at length did feel them; thence they spread to the house of slumberers who heeded them not, until they became unmanageable; fed by the fat of hypocrisy and vainglory, they consumed the next dwelling; then crept unseen into the synagogue, licking up the blood of martyrs and wrapping their altars in ruins. “God is a consuming fire.”

Thus are all mortals, under every hue of circumstances, driven out of their houses of clay and, homeless wanderers in a beleaguered city, forced to seek the Father’s house, if they would be led to the valley and up the mount.

Seeing the wisdom of withdrawing from those who persistently rejected him, the Stranger returned to the valley; first, to meet with joy his own, to wash their feet, and take them up the mountain. Well might this heavenly messenger exclaim, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee,… Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”

Discerning in his path the penitent one who had groped his way from the dwelling of luxury, the Stranger saith unto him, “Wherefore comest thou hither?”

He answered, “The sight of thee unveiled my sins, and turned my misnamed joys to sorrow. When I went back into the house to take something out of it, my misery increased; so I came hither, hoping that I might follow thee whithersoever thou goest.”

And the Stranger saith unto him, “Wilt thou climb the mountain, and take nothing of thine own with thee?”

He answered, “I will.”

“Then,” saith the Stranger, “thou hast chosen the good part; follow me.”

Many there were who had entered the valley to speculate in worldly policy, religion, politics, finance, and to search for wealth and fame. These had heavy baggage of their own, and insisted upon taking all of it with them, which must greatly hinder their ascent.

The journey commences. The encumbered travellers halt and disagree. They stoutly belay those who, having less baggage, ascend faster than themselves, and betimes burden them with their own. Despairing of gaining the summit, loaded as they are, they conclude to stop and lay down a few of the heavy weights,—but only to take them up again, more than ever determined not to part with their baggage.

All this time the Stranger is pointing the way, showing them their folly, rebuking their pride, consoling their afflictions, and helping them on, saying, “He that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it.”

Obstinately holding themselves back, and sore-footed, they fall behind and lose sight of their guide; when, stumbling and grumbling, and fighting each other, they plunge headlong over the jagged rocks.

Then he who has no baggage goes back and kindly binds up their wounds, wipes away the blood stains, and would help them on; but suddenly the Stranger shouts, “Let them alone; they must learn from the things they suffer. Make thine own way; and if thou strayest, listen for the mountain-horn, and it will call thee back to the path that goeth upward.”

Dear reader, dost thou suspect that the valley is humility, that the mountain is heaven-crowned Christianity, and the Stranger the ever-present Christ, the spiritual idea which from the summit of bliss surveys the vale of the flesh, to burst the bubbles of earth with a breath of heaven, and acquaint sensual mortals with the mystery of godliness,—unchanging, unquenchable Love? Hast not thou heard this Christ knock at the door of thine own heart, and closed it against Truth, to “eat and drink with the drunken”? Hast thou been driven by suffering to the foot of the mount, but earth-bound, burdened by pride, sin, and self, hast thou turned back, stumbled, and wandered away? Or hast thou tarried in the habitation of the senses, pleased and stupefied, until wakened through the baptism of fire?

He alone ascends the hill of Christian Science who follows the Way-shower, the spiritual presence and idea of God. Whatever obstructs the way,—causing to stumble, fall, or faint, those mortals who are striving to enter the path,—divine Love will remove; and uplift the fallen and strengthen the weak. Therefore, give up thy earth-weights; and observe the apostle’s admonition, “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those which are before.” Then, loving God supremely and thy neighbor as thyself, thou wilt safely bear thy cross up to the throne of everlasting glory.

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